New Dumas Noon Lions Club Sweetheart Paloma Zamarripa has missed out on a few things the past few months. The soon-to-be senior at Dumas High School (DHS) lost a big chunk of her junior year experience when the COVID crisis struck in February and March, and state and local officials closed schools for the rest of the semester and cancelled all events and activities. "Oh, it was crazy. I was expecting the normal, and it was so out of the ordinary and completely different. At least we got to finish the year, even though it was online," said Paloma when asked about the spring semester. "It was difficult not being able to have a routine like going to school, seeing my friends, my teachers, and all that. I was just stuck at home. We didn't go back to school after spring break, and I didn't start seeing my friends until the beginning of June. I was like, 'OK, it's time.' "
The COVID crisis didn't just change her school year. The new sweetheart is usually introduced to the community at Dogie Days. She gets rolled in paper like a brisket and loaded on to a truck at the meat wrap. She rides in the parade and works at the carnival -- all fun activities for a teen-aged girl. But the Lions had to cancel Dogie Days this year, and Paloma's introduction came a couple of weeks ago when she stood up in front of a Lions Club noon-time meeting for the first time and told a joke -- about chickens. She says she loves chickens.
Whatever she may have missed out on, however, nothing seems to dampen her smile or cause her to lose her positive spirit. "It is a little sad, because that would have been one of those special moments that I would have gotten to experience," she said of the Dogie Days cancellation. "But, you know, everything happens for a reason, and with COVID and everything happening, it was the smart decision to hold off on that. Even though I got deprived of a little bit of extra things, it was for the better cause." And, there is always next year.
The youngest of three daughters of Juan and Carmen Zamarripa -- immigrants from Mexico, who today are successful United States citizens -- Paloma was born in Dumas. She began school in the Dumas Independent School District (DISD) speaking only the Spanish that she had learned at home in the first years of her life. Whatever challenge that posed, it was not one that Paloma, with the help of teachers, could not overcome.
When she begins her senior year next month, she will be the student body president of DHS and a member of the student council. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and the Future Educators of America. She plays tennis, both singles and as a team member. She marches and plays French horn in band. "I love band and everything music related." She puts her talent and love of music to use at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, where she is an organist and singer in the choir.
Paloma has a special love for animals, something she says she acquired growing up taking care of chickens and other animals on her parents' land. "I love playing with baby animals; It is my favorite thing to do." She judges chickens, among other things, as a member of the Future Farmers of America, and next year she hopes to show animals competitively, though she doesn't know which ones yet.
Paloma had had no experience with the Lions Club when her teacher, Jill Williams, suggested she apply to be sweetheart. Her mother and sister had been to a Lions Club meeting once. Her sister participates in Special Olympics, an event supported by the Lions, and one that Paloma hopes to give added support to as sweetheart. "It would be really special to help all these kids out," she said.
After hearing from Williams, Paloma thought, "I'll give it a try" and submitted the application. She was shocked to find out that she had been chosen. "It is such an honor. I didn't see it coming." She looks forward to attending meetings and performing community service. And she hopes her activity as sweetheart can increase "Hispanic representation among the community to show that we want to be involved and encourage others to be involved."
Paloma has many interests and definite goals for her life. Teaching and interacting with children will always play a major role. She dreams of attending Texas A & M University ("I want to be an Aggie") and becoming a high school social studies teacher. "I love social studies; it is fascinating to me." But, she also loves animals, agriculture, music, and languages, and she says she wants to figure out a way to incorporate all of those in her future career too.
Among her accomplishments, Paloma is fluent in English and Spanish, something that she recognizes will be an advantage for her in the future. "It is a blessing to be able to communicate in two languages." She says her favorite subject at school is English, and she usually reads novels in English. But she also reads novels in Spanish from time to time and enjoys using her Spanish during family trips to Mexico to visit relatives. She says she might even like to teach Spanish some day.
Whatever the future holds, Paloma says she knows who to thank for her success so far in life: "I am super proud of my parents. … They came over for a better future for me and my siblings. … I am super happy for everything they have accomplished and everything they do for me."